Back in the early days of my relationship with the Hungarian forint, I was a little addled. For a while there, I lost all sense of reason. I’d spend hundreds of thousands forints on a piece of furniture and move on to the next café rather than spend more than 300 for a coffee. All those zeros wrecked my head. During the contracts phase of buying the house in the village, I happened to be in Dublin. In the inner city. I got a text asking me when I could transfer the money. I texted back saying I could send 2 million that day and the rest later in the week. I had a brief flashforward of the gardai finding my dead body in a laneway with my phone open on that final text. I doubt forints would be the first thing to come to mind.
Once a respite from the higher prices of other European countries, Hungary has been catching up at speed. In the last twelve months, my grocery bill has gone up about 30% and yes, that’s after I factor in the extra wine. And yes, again, that’s most likely collateral damage from the pandemic and how it has affected the markets. I’ve been hearing rumours of an impending across-the-board price hike with 30% being the magic number touted. Coincidently, buying a bath this week, I was congratulated for anticipating Monday’s price hike. Yes, 30%. I saw the new price list. It wasn’t a sales gimmick – they’re the only place in Hungary making and selling this type of bath. One swallow doesn’t make a spring. Here’s hoping that this isn’t an indicator of what’s to come.
The renovation we’re mired in is costing me twice what I’d budgeted for 18 months ago. That the Competitions Authority is investing the Cement Triad is no surprise. I read that the price of timber has increased by as much as 70% as EU timber is diverted to meet demand in China and the USA. The price of steel is also increasing because of the reduced supply from China. [If China ever stopped exporting, our shelves would be empty in a week.] Even the stuff on sale on second-hand online forums are more expensive.
I love paging through the online market places in the hope of finding that one piece of furniture I didn’t know I needed. It’s a form of therapy. I went a little wild on old embroidery earlier this year and while I definitely fell foul of some good photography, I scored some nice pieces, too.
I amuse myself with my dithering. Is it worth it? Is it too much? Did I see something similar last week for more? Or less? I wonder, too, at the sellers. Have they added one zero too many or forgotten one? Are they really willing to trade those chairs for some chocolate? Will they even engage with me, given that I’m so obviously not Hungarian? It’s rare but it happens.
I’ve been giving the concept of value a lot of thought recently. Pay an extra 30 000 (~€80/$100) to have it delivered or take five hours out of my day to go there myself and get it? Pay an extra 1000 per square metre for an excellent tiler or make do with a good one? [When you’re dealing with a big space, it adds up.] Fork out for the cast marble bath that will be the last bath I ever buy or settle for a fraction of the price that will age in three years? Now, if money were no object, there’d be no question. But sadly, that’s not the case. It seems like every day brings a slew of value decisions to be made. What do I value most: Money or time? Quality or price? Recycled or new?
This green leather chair was the same price as the shelf. I bought the chair first and then found myself trying to justify spending the same money on the shelf. I was looking at form and substance comparing apples and oranges confusing price and value.
Ambrose Bierce, author of the wondering Devil’s Dictionary defines price as follows:
PRICE, n. Value, plus a reasonable sum for the wear and tear of conscience in demanding it.
Usually, I look at something. Decide what I’m prepared to pay for it. And then check the price. Sometimes I’m surprised. At a market a few months back, I found a first-edition 1970s travel book on Hungary. Hardback. Reasonable condition. I had 2000 forints in my head. I asked how much. I heard 5. So I began to bargain and eventually, in something approaching incredulous amusement, he agreed. I checked my wallet looking for the exact money. Himself asked me what I was doing. I told him. He handed me 200 forints which I, somewhat dazed, handed over to the man. We were both surprised. He’d asked 500 forints, not 5000, and was amused that I was so cheap I’d haggle with him. I was surprised he didn’t want more. He was surprised I’d have paid more. I ended up giving him what he’d originally asked for. I left happier.
Author Simon Sinek says:
Value is not determined but those who set the price. Value is set by those who choose to pay it.
Facebook through up this story today as if confirming the subjectivity of value for me.
So grateful this week that I could cross a bath off my list…